As I write this, the death toll from COVID-19 has topped 560,000 in the United States. Worldwide, nearly three million families have experienced the grief, anxiety and disruption that follows the unexpected loss of a loved one. Funeral professionals know this all too well – you have been on the front lines of this crisis, day in and day out for more than a year.
We are, hopefully, nearing the end of the worst of the pandemic – certainly, a bright moment of hope in what has been a very dark year. And there is more hope on the horizon. This week, the federal government rolled out its COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program, offering much-needed relief for families who incurred pandemic-related funeral expenses.
I’ve included additional details on this program below. Your Homesteaders account executive can also serve as a resource, helping you get the word out to the families you’ve served in the last year who may qualify for assistance.
How the Program Works:
FEMA will provide reimbursement for any qualifying applicants who incurred COVID-19 related funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
Assistance is capped at $9,000 per funeral and $35,000 per application (if a family is applying for assistance to cover more than one funeral). When applying, families can select whether they would prefer to receive their assistance via check or direct deposit.
Who Qualifies for Assistance:
To qualify for funeral assistance, families must meet these criteria:
- The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
- The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19.
- The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
- Note: U.S. citizens may receive assistance, even if the deceased individual was not a U.S. citizen.
Funeral expenses that were covered by an existing funeral or burial insurance policy do not qualify for assistance.
How to Apply:
Families can apply for assistance by calling the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance hotline using the number below. The call should take about 20 minutes.
The FEMA website notes that due to the current high call volume, applicants should try again later if they receive a busy signal or if the call doesn’t connect. There is no deadline to apply.
COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Contact Info:
844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585
Hours of Operation:
Monday - Friday
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (EST)
Prior to calling, families should gather appropriate documentation to help expedite their claim, including:
- An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States.
- Funeral expense documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that include the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses and the date(s) the funeral expenses were incurred.
- Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. FEMA is not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies or other sources.
Once applicants have submitted their initial claims, a FEMA representative will walk them through how to submit the appropriate documentation by mail or fax or through a secure online portal.
Where to Go for More Information:
Additional information is available on the FEMA website, including a program overview page and a list of frequently asked questions. Your Homesteaders account executive can also provide assistance in getting the word out to families through your social media channels.